Follow by Email

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Fighting the ISIS: Why India should measure its steps


http://indiatogether.org/fighting-the-isis-op-ed                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, while interacting with the press at the wreath laying ceremony commemorating the 1971 victory anniversary at Amar Jawan Jyoti, said, "We have made it clear that if there is a UN resolution and if there is UN flag and a UN mission, then as per India's policy to operate under UN flag, we will participate."
FOR FULL ARTICLE SEE - http://indiatogether.org/fighting-the-isis-op-ed
There are two dimensions to the unfolding game. One lies in addressing the fighting between the Russia-supported Assad regime and the US-supported rebels. The second and more daunting prospect is dealing with the ISIS. Rationally, the first should precede the second.
It is not clear what Parrikar has in mind. If he is referring to the first then it can be reasonably backed. After all, the conflict has seen 250000 deaths and over 10 million displaced or refugees. Halting the fighting politically and bringing in UN peacekeeping forces for overseeing the ceasefire and follow-up political arrangements can only be taken as urgent and necessary.
Indian participation can easily be seen as facilitating the above. It is, after all, on top of the table of UN peacekeeping contributors alongside Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. It would also be in keeping with this tradition and its national security stakes including a voice in the Security Council. As it is, Indian blue helmets are already in close vicinity of the fighting in Lebanon and the Golan Heights.
However, Parrikar appears to have had the second in mind – military operations against the ISIS albeit under a UN flag. There are two aspects to this: the UN-mandated operation and the foe, ISIS.
FOR FULL ARTICLE SEE - http://indiatogether.org/fighting-the-isis-op-ed
It can easily be seen why India might like to sign up. It wishes to be on the high table. It makes up with military might what it lacks in diplomatic heft. Especially where ‘boots on ground’ matter, it is streets ahead of all armies. Since cleaning out the ISIS would require troops, It is also easily understood why the US may look to India.
FOR FULL ARTICLE SEE - http://indiatogether.org/fighting-the-isis-op-ed
The manner in which the media campaign has shaped up since Russia joined the fray and the Paris attacks occurred makes it difficult to argue against participating in wrapping up the ISIS. India is determined to place itself in the same corner as those fighting the ISIS under the garb of fighting terrorism. Soon after the Paris attacks it invited the French President for gracing the next Republic Day parade.
FOR FULL ARTICLE SEE - http://indiatogether.org/fighting-the-isis-op-ed
There are internal political reasons that should not be discounted. The deep wellsprings of cultural nationalism are watered by a belief of Muslim domination of Hindus over the last millennium. Here is an opportunity for Hindu power to stride across Muslim lands. The internal political utility of such projection would be in suitably cowing India’s Muslims, their red rag.
The rationale would be their susceptibility to outside blandishment towards terrorism – witnessed over the last two decades through their hobnobbing with Pakistan’s ISI. This necessitates tackling the problem at its origin. Watch this argument being trotted out over the following months by closet right wing strategists.
Words of caution
That said, anticipatory arguments against premature commitment to military adventurism are in order. The ISIS is all that the western media says, and more. It is an ogre. It is however not a monolith. The West and Russia have good reasons to want to get rid of it. Its rise shows up their underside.
The West has flirted with radical Islam not only for strategic heft against Soviet Union initially, but also in this case against Assad. Russia has trampled Chechnya and the Russians in the ISIS is a blowback brewing. The ISIS is resident in an Iraqi Sunni populace with its own political and strategic moorings. To add to complexity, a proportion of its funding is from Arab sources alienated from their feudal regimes to an extent that cosmetic elections as the latest one in Saudi Arabia are simply too late salvage.
A military roll back of ISIS, even with the powers on the same page, would be to address symptoms. This means that just as ISIS succeeded Al Qaeda, there would be another new kid on the block. The military way as currently underway does not lend confidence that it is sufficiently cognizant of the laws of war. Incessant bombing of populated areas is on. It is hard to believe that the ISIS is sitting out in the desert without its human shields.
FOR FULL ARTICLE SEE - http://indiatogether.org/fighting-the-isis-op-ed
It is apparent that photo opportunities of the kind Prime Minister Modi is indulging in -- such as those showing him aboard IAF choppers providing relief in Chennai or onboard an aircraft carrier -- are being taken too seriously. Overconfidence in the military also calls for a warning. A brass that could not convince its political leadership that a combined commanders’ conference is not like a political party’s jamboree is not one that can be relied on to pull off peace enforcement half a continent away.
The only positive spin one can make of the statement is that India is perhaps under pressure from the USA to sign up for an impending ‘Coalition of the Willing II’, which it rightly wishes to avoid. Therefore, its insistence on UN resolution, which in the circumstance of peace enforcement in Iraq or Syria may be difficult to come by.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Chennai floods and India’s strategic underside

http://www.countercurrents.org/ahmed161215.htm

The floods in Chennai for a second time round bring home that our metropolises are quite incapable of withstanding disasters. If natural disasters continue to perplex the administration across the country, be it in Srinagar or Garhwal earlier, it can well be imagined what nuclear conflict aftermath would wreck. In Chennai, it took longer to react since the army was absent, with its Southern Command over at its winter manouvers, Exercise Drad Sankalp. Therefore, public interest is warranted and public interest a must, even in arcane issues of nuclear strategy.

Recent obituaries on the death of Sandy Berger, Clinton’s national security advisor, prompted a return to the Kargil War. Sandy Berger apparently defused an India-Pakistan nuclear crisis during the war, quite like another national security official, Robert Gates, had done once previously in 1990. Alongside, excerpts from an Indian war correspondent’s just released memoirs of the period also make a mention of the nuclear dimension to the conflict.

Reportedly, Brajesh Mishra went over to Europe to suggest Americans use their good offices with the Pakistanis to wind up their intrusions in Kargil, or else India would use all measures to evict them. The hint was that India may require crossing the Line of Control (LC) and, following its 1965 War footsteps, would not necessarily restrict itself to the LC sector. This could provoke a nuclear response from Pakistan, necessitating nuclear retaliation by India. The scenario impressed Clinton enough to persuade Nawaz Sharif to call back the Pakistani intruders. The rest as they say is history.

The Kargil War prompted a rethink in India at both levels: conventional and nuclear. However, there was a mismatch between the two. While at the conventional level, India went on to a proactive and offensive doctrine, at the nuclear level it promised ‘massive’ – city busting – nuclear retaliation. A conventional offensive could prompt a Pakistani nuclear counter, leading to reflexive escalation on India’s part that would insensibly put its own cities at risk.

This would have been sustainable in case the conventional offensive was made a remote possibility by measures such as meaningful talks over conflict triggers such as Kashmir. However, while the talks did get underway, as the then Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri’s memoirs testify, they could not be sustained and eventually were derailed by Mumbai, 26/11.

The latest Exercise Drad Sankalp has all the hallmarks of nuclear dangers: ‘decisive manoeuvres by mechanized forces on ground in harmony with utilization of the Third Dimension (air power (added)) to ensure complete dominance of the battlefield.’ The highlighted phrases would tend to trigger Pakistan’s nuclear card, officially pointed out finally by its foreign secretary only this September.

The mention of ‘integrated theatre’ concept the finds mention in the press note suggests that the manouvers appear to be prepared for such an eventuality. What the phrase means is that even though the Pakistani frontage has three geographic commands arrayed, they are capable of fighting as one, as was the case in the 1965 War in which General Harbaksh Singh was the de-facto theatre commander. While in 1965, the war was brought to an end with General JN ‘Mucchu’ Chaudhuri pleading lack of artillery ammunition, the integrated theater concept also entails integrated logistics, implying that India could rely on its depth in resources to continue the war despite its going nuclear.

India is evidently still fighting the last war. Deterrence wonks would have it that this ability will strengthen deterrence by implying ‘escalation dominance’, an ability to prevail even if Pakistan goes nuclear and at any level of nuclear exchange(s). However, the Chennai floods bring home that this does not hold for the civilian front. It would be wishful to believe that the civilian front will remain unscathed in war.
The favoured scenario is of Pakistan setting off a few tactical nuclear warheads to thwart India’s mechanized forces. However, with its conventional forces continuing the war – an ability the military exercises underway testify – then it would be yet again bringing its cities under risk. Pakistan, once it has broken the nuclear taboo, will unlikely defensively restrict nuclear salvos to its own territory, hurting itself multiple times over in addition to suffering India’s retaliation. Therefore, India’s prolonging the war despite Pakistan’s introduction of nuclear weapons would open the way for nuclear escalation.
India needs instead to end war immediately on its going nuclear. This was the conclusion of India’s leading nuclear thinker, General Sundarji (Blindmen of Hindoostan, Delhi: UBS Publishers, p. 102) that now needs dusting and readying for doctrinal battle.
Nuclear hawks would have it that this plays into Pakistani hands, enabling that state to get away. India must instead be firm and resolved to inflict punishment. The problem with this argument is India needs to then, alongside, gain ability to withstand punishment. It is debatable whether any society can really ever do so, leave alone India.
As Mr. Modi lands by helicopter to address the military brass assembled for the combined commander’s conference on INS Vikramaditya mid-month, he needs reminding that India would end up as Churchill would have it - a geographic concept – in case India does not lead South Asia off the nuclear path.
His foreign minister’s visit to Islamabad for the Heart of Asia conference has set the stage for more than merely his visit to Islamabad for the SAARC summit. The two national security advisers’ secret meeting in Bangkok heralds a revival of the ‘back channel’. The two must ensure that ‘back channel’ they go beyond nuclear confidence building that is part of the up-front ‘comprehensive bilateral dialogue’ to arrive at a mechanism for nipping the nuclear genie right in the bud.








Tuesday, December 15, 2015

India-Pak bonhomie: Can it last?

http://www.kashmirtimes.in/newsdet.aspx?q=47699

Since this is the fourth spectacle that Modi’s national security establishment has pulled off, it would be difficult to bet if this is the last one. The first was to get Sharif to attend Modi’s swearing in. Soon thereafter, they cancelled the foreign secretary talks. A year later at Ufa, Russia, the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan outlined a step-by-step approach to begin with a meeting of national security advisers. The very next month, the meeting was called off over whether the agenda would include Kashmir.
The fourth and latest volte-face on India’s part witnessed the two national security advisers meeting in secret in Bangkok to set the stage for the Indian foreign minister’s visit to Islamabad. Clearly then, between now and the prime minister’s visit scheduled for next September for the SAARC summit, the only certainty is uncertainty. Any bets would need to be hedged.
Consequently, it makes only some sense, but not very much, for applauding the latest turn round. The good part of appreciating the move is that it would incentivize the two states to stay the popular course, for yet another departure would prove costly in terms of reputation and felicity for foreign policy. Since this time round the foreign minister has announced renewed engagement under the rubric of ‘comprehensive bilateral dialogue’, it would appear to be more serious, making a turn back more costly.
However, there are two major drivers behind this that might change in the months ahead, leading to the possibility of yet another turn, if not an about turn.
The first one is external: US influence. The influence of the US on India’s Pakistan policy has been there since India asked for its intervention to pull its chestnuts out of the fire during the Kargil War. In the event, the Clinton succeeded spectacularly, setting the stage for the bilateral dialogue between Jaswant Singh and Strobe Talbot that the two succeeding governments took to the logical conclusion in the nuclear deal.
India eased up on Pakistan in the period the US needed Pakistan to prosecute its Afghanistan offensive. In the event of the Taliban bouncing back and the theatre expanding to ‘AfPak’, the US needed pressure on Pakistan. The coincidence of 26/11 enabled India to apply the pressure that then enabled the US to keep Pakistan to the till, including acquiescing to drone strikes on its territory.      
With Obama coming to office with an aim to pull out troops from both Afghanistan and I    raq, the US needed Pakistan all the more. There was even talk of ‘talking to the Taliban’, in this case the ‘good Taliban’. In the post Osama phase of US-Pakistan relations, India-Pakistan relations transited what Sushma Swaraj called the ‘resumed dialogue’. These were essentially talks about talks rather than a resumption of the ‘composite dialogue’ and were soon to collapse in the beheading of Indian soldiers on the Line of Control. The Congress then fast approaching its nadir was unable to look beyond the elections.
This brings one to the second factor: internal politics. Internal politics punches way below its weight in international relations, although it is perhaps the more significant in determining a state’s foreign policy. The Modi wave was such as to make his national security managers believe that they could dictate terms even to Pakistan. With the Pakistani ambassador unwilling to oblige by cancelling his tea with the Hurriyet, foreign secretary level talks about a return to the table were called off.
India upped the ante by selective firing along the Line of Control, replied in kind by a spurt in infiltration by Pakistan. This was useful from the ruling dispensation’s point of view as significant states were going to polls, including J&K. While the gains in J&K were obvious, Delhi and later Bihar showed the diminishing marginal utility of muscle flexing. The politics of polarization that brought dividend in the national elections and elections in Maharashtra and Haryana appear to have run out of steam.
Assam and later West Bengal now face polls. Whereas the politics of polarization has made an early appearance, particularly in Assam, the fact is that both states have significant minority populations that cannot be ignored. Consequently, in the minds’ eye of the right wing political strategists a tough Pakistan policy may require watering down, at least temporarily.
In their thinking, Indian Muslims identify with Pakistan and would be mollified if India were to be seen as chumming up with that state. Fallacious though this is the connection drawn of Indian Muslims with Pakistan is self-evident from the numerous references to both that find mention in the same breath of right wing politicians and propagandists. Memorable on this score are, ‘go to Pakistan’ and ‘celebrations in Pakistan’. 
Clearly, the internal elections timetable appears to be driving the foreign policy agenda of the government. If Mr. Modi is to eventually have a free hand in reshaping India, he requires conquering Raisina Hill, one half of which - its upper house -  is currently not in his kitty. A reverse while on top would expose both Modi and the right wing, setting them back with finality.
Peace with Pakistan is useful in this sense by helping with his economic agenda, since he has come under criticism for promising much and delivering little. He can afford to do without any buffeting that can originate in Pakistan. Keeping Pakistan placated makes sense and any subsequent crisis onset can then be rightly blamed on that side for not keeping up its side of the bargain.
What does such an inside-outside look at India’s Pakistan policy spell for longevity of this phase?
In the immediate term, it is all for the good in that the two military operations heads can meet as per the schedule set at Ufa. This will translate on a tranquil Line of Control. This might well extend into summer since Mr. Modi has accepted the invite to travel to Islamabad for the SAARC summit. Pakistan for its part has promised good behavior so long as talks continue, so infiltration may once again be at ebb.
Yet, Modi in travelling to Islamabad would not like to end up as Vajpayee did with egg on his face, so there would be little let up in militarization. This will ensure that the next crisis will likely be more ‘on the edge’ than was the relatively placid one of 2002. Internal politics will pressure Modi to give a ‘befitting reply’. Since the onus would be on Pakistan, even if this has an economic price, playing to the gallery militarily would compensate.
Pakistan for its part needs a break in order to make the gains its proxy the Taliban appear to be making in Afghanistan. The US also needs Pakistan to keep a check on the Taliban pulling the rug from under its sponsored administration in Afghanistan. The US cannot keep a closer watch since history appears to have speeded up in the Middle East. Once Pakistan has seen off the US, and gains a measure that India is only set to discuss J&K, rather than talk meaningfully, its gloves are liable to be off.
The timeline for the strategic outlook here takes Modi into his second term. By then he would not need to be soft with Pakistan any more, either for the economy’s sake or elections. The reboot of India would be away in right earnest, for which a hostile Pakistan would be preferable to accentuate the internal ‘Other’, India’s minority.
So what we are essentially seeing is a stowing away of the gloves for timely retrieval a few years on. The interim would in any case see twists and turns aplenty, if only because an intelligence head on the Indian side as national security minder and a military man on the other, are both adept at shadow boxing.




Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Paris attacks and India’s Muslims
milligazette.com
1-15 December 2015
The clarity of condemnation of the Paris attacks by India’s Muslims shall serve to silence motivated right wing critics who usually have it that India’s Muslims are mostly silent in condemning terror. However, it bears reminding that while the allusion by a prominent UP politician, Azam Khan, to the context of the attack was certainly mistimed, it was not misplaced.
It is on this count that the India’s Muslims, while not endorsing terrorism in any manner, can yet maintain a critical stance on Obama’s statement that Muslims are not doing enough to keep their children from being ‘infected’ or the position of their own prime minister who has it that we must tackle terrorism ‘without any political considerations’.
Obama’s attempt at straddling Muslims with a guilt complex is to obfuscate the military actions of his country and his own failure to overturn the Bush legacy. He failed to coincide a peace surge with a military surge in Afghanistan early in his presidency, resulting in the takeover of Kunduz by the Taliban at the fag end of his presidency. Attempting to end any further body bags coming home and ending American support for the military template, his withdrawal from Iraq left it to a sectarian regime leading to the rise of IS. The CIA’s transfer of Libyan arms to Syria has provided the IS hardware. The financial support for the IS has come from disaffected citizens of the US’ feudal Arab allies. The reversal of the promise of Arab Spring has brought ideological extremism to fore. Obama’s inability to control Israel’s outrages in Gaza, West Bank and at Al Aqsa have enraged those who have joined the IS, including fighters from the West. Clearly, it is not Muslims, but Obama and the US that have not done enough to reverse terrorism. US actions, some in support of their anti-democratic Arab regimes, have instead fostered and sustained terror.
This is the political context that cannot be wished away. Mr. Modi’s wish that it be disregarded is to miss out on root causes. Peace theory has it that neglecting root causes cannot bring about a sustainable solution. Neglecting political consideration is a call to military action. Military action has not proven effective so far. The Taliban emerged from a military context in a civil war in Afghanistan. Their emergence set the stage for the abominable action of Al Qaeda on 9/11. The war against Al Qaeda that was willfully taken by the West into Iraq set the stage for the rise of IS. Appropriating the Arab Spring for their purposes, the West destabilized Libya first and later, Syria. It stood in way of a return to democracy in Egypt. This narrative suggests that a military template is counterproductive. The corollary is that conversely, political considerations are acutely relevant.
Critics of the position here would have it that such reminding of the context implies an endorsement of terrorism. To them, it legitimises terrorism. It is supportive of the narrative terrorists themselves seek to use. Is their counter argument valid?
To wish away political considerations is itself a political choice. As shown above, a military template void of political underpinnings is a recipe for disaster. Foregrounding the essentially political context ensures that the military template sticks to the Clausewitzian logic that military action must be preceded and,where necessary superseded, by political considerations. What this suggests is that opting for a ‘purely’ military template is a wrong-headed political choice. This is the lesson over the past quarter century of post Cold War wars. Therefore, to remind of the political context is not to endorse terrorism but to deflate endorsement of political choices that turn a blind eye to politics. Such reminding also has the benefit of bringing the military prong of strategy firmly under control of politics. It is no one’s case that the IS can be degraded without military means, but that such means if unaccompanied by political processes, including the promise of talks, can only be part of the problem. After all, for violence there can be no ‘purely political’ solution either.
Bringing a discussion of the context into the debate does not legitimize terror. Terrorism, quite like its counter in conventional military response, is void of political considerations. It is astrategic, in that it persists in wrong-headed choice of a military template, one that substitutes a suicide bomber for a predator drone. Consequently, quite like the military counter, it is unable to clinch the issue. Terrorism’s use of violence is to polarize target societies in order that it gains ideological empathy and, in case of overreaction, gather recruits. This is however not without cost. Its challenge to perceived injustice, for instance in terms of neocolonialism, on Palestine, on world order issues such as carving up of the Middle East into manipulable states, division of Arabs etc. is lost in the violence. It endangers those who its self-styled defenders are out to defend. It wishes to defend to death those who may not want to be so defended, who are appalled by actions in their name and that of their religion. Bringing politics back into the reckoning helps dispel the ‘terrorists as saviours’ myth terrorists foster.
Finally, is this the terrorist’s narrative? Terrorists make an instrumental use of the ideological critique of the West’s actions. Their violence is to bring about Bush-like a ‘with us or against us’polarization. However, in the melee they end up degrading the critique as well as providing the West a way out to avoid making course correction using terrorist violence as justification. Both need each other. Both feed off each other. Both are interested in continuation of the violence as it suits both. Both are in this respect a mirror image of each other.
The term ‘West’ here subsumes the governments. It does not include civil society, a major proportion of which is not only attentive but capable of action, even if the power of the governments is such as to make such action ineffectual: witness the several thousand who marched in European and US cities against Bush beginning his wars. Their narrative too is critical of their governments. They have simply not been allowed by the government’s information departments and the media to build up the momentum they managed in the Vietnam War. Such a momentum cannot come about by terrorizing them either, the effort in the Paris terror attacks by terrorists. Clearly, a critique of the governmental narrative that suggests a return to politics, to seeking political solution as against military, is not a replication of the terror narrative.
What does this mean for India’s Muslims? While the condemnation of terrorism must be unequivocal, there is no question of abandoning a critical view of militarized templates. India’s Muslims have no horse in the race. The Arab nationalists and religious extremists are fighting a regional war against international powers in their region. India’s proximity to the US and Israel - now no longer a state secret - explains only partially why India wants politics ignored.
The balance of the reason is in the ideological strategy favoured by the ruling formation tends to unnecessarily bring Indian Muslims under a cloud; an instance being its inquiry of foreign intelligence agencies on the numbers of Indians in the ranks of the IS. India’s Muslims need to be wary of the internal political utility to the ruling party, and its political pseudo-cultural support base, of the external, unconnected war. With five elections lined up particularly in West Bengal and Assam, will no doubt, post Bihar elections debacle, bring the internal ‘other’ – illegal immigrant - prominently to fore, among other such wily themes.

The argument that ‘root causes’ approach amounts to purveying the terrorist message must be fought off. The guilty by association argument must be demolished. India’s Muslims must join their voice to the liberal viewpoint in the West that is critical of their government’s approach over the past decade and half. It must not allow the right wing here to forward its internal political interests using yet another stick to beat India’s Muslims with.  

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Is Mani Shankar Aiyar right?

http://kashmirtimes.com/newsdet.aspx?q=46881

On a Pakistani TV channel debate, irrepressible Congress politician, Mani Shankar Aiyar, is reported as having said, “The first and the foremost thing is to remove Modi. Only then can the talks move forward. We have to wait for four more years. They (panelists) are all optimist and that we can move forward when Modi sahab is there, but I don’t think so.”
To confess, this author was one among whom Aiyar characterizes as ‘optimist’. In an article appraising Mr. Modi’s visit to Kashmir while he was electioneering early last year, the argument expressed was that Mr. Modi would be concentrating on his neo-liberal agenda in case he were to come to power. This would entail a period of stability, with its implications of relative peace with Pakistan. It would also help him further his ideological agenda, by over throwing his anti-minority image and thereby concentrating on a subtle makeover of the rest of India.
The optimist assumption that India could be more responsive to Pakistan since Mr. Modi as a ‘hindu nationalist’ did not have to watch his flanks and back has proven false. Apparently, Mr. Modi’s reference to his 56 inch chest is not enough for him to reach out to Pakistan, despite a promising beginning in bringing over Mr. Sharif to his swearing in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhawan. This was seen as a coup for Mr. Doval, his new national security manager. Even so, both felt the need to first flex muscles, so as to suitably impress the Pakistani brass. From a position of strength thereafter, they could presumably then pursue a more placatory Pakistan policy.
The search for this position of strength has proven elusive. The grounds for this had been laid by his predecessor government. By about 2013, recognizing the diminishing marginal utility of stalling talks since Mumbai 26/11, it had been contemplating mending fences but wanted to wait it out till elections. In his very next move - the cancellation of foreign secretary talks last August - Mr. Doval put paid to a promising beginning. Thereafter, the army was given the tacit go ahead to activate the Line of Control. The deterrence message was broadcast loud and clear with two back to back military exercises in early summer, of a pivot corps and a strike corps. The year is to culminate in yet another Command exercise that though unnamed yet, is expected to be the largest this decade.
The casualty in all this has been Nawaz Sharif. He has been the voice of the pro India constituency in Pakistan. However, India having been once bitten is twice shy. Sharif’s credibility has been limited by his showing in the Kargil episode. Therefore, India is attuned to the thinking in Rawalpindi. It may be right on this, since Sharif’s national security adviser is now a former military man. The message is that if there is to be a meeting of national security advisers of the two states, as Mr. Modi and Mr. Sharif agreed to at their meeting on the sidelines of the SCO meeting in Ufa, Russia, then the military there prefers a uniformed interlocutor.
It is clear that the Pakistani brass has been unimpressed by Mr. Modi and Mr. Doval’s show of strength. It has made gains in Afghanistan, so much so that there are reports of Pakistani agents directing the fighting for Kunduz by the Taliban. It has reached out to the new Afghan regime, ending Karzai’s pro India tilt. It has presented itself as useful for a renewed peace process with the Taliban, by offering its assistance. This has made it relevant once again for the US, seeking a way out of Afghanistan, now that the Iraq front has been set alight by the IS. It has taken on the extremists within Pakistan, best evidenced by the reduction in terror attacks in KP. The talk has been for normalizing Pakistan as a nuclear state, with some caveats though. This provides a positive backdrop to the trip to Washington by its Chief Raheel Sharif.
Further, it has faced off with the Indian military on the Line of Control. Its control of the Rangers in Pakistan has enabled it to stand up to the BSF in the abutting border belt. More importantly, Pakistan’s foreign secretary has unmistakably let on that its tactical nuclear weapons are intended to deter India’s launch of ‘cold start’ operations. Drawing on its nuclear cover, it has continued its subconventional operations, expanding the scope mid-year to Udhampur and the adjacent plains in Gurdaspur. That it continues to have a finger the pie in the Valley is apparent from the martyrdom of a colonel.
It is quite obvious that Pakistan is playing with fire. But then little else can be expected from a military dominated polity. It has little to lose, being perpetually poised on the failed state status. With the new kid on the block - the IS – there are portents of worse to come. An analyst who was in the team that had at the turn of the nineties, rightly as it turned out, predicted Pakistani meddling in Kashmir under the semi-fictional scenario, Operation Topac, has painted a grim picture of an IS inclined Pakistani state expanding the scope of meddling to the rest of India.
Manmohan’s cliché that India cannot change its neighbours means that India cannot change its geographical location. It should not be read to mean that India cannot change Pakistan’s military-set self-destructive course. As a regional power with global power aspirations, it needs to first exercise its power in influencing its region. Talking about a united front against terrorism at global for a, such as most recently Mr. Modi’s address at the G20 in Turkey, can only be taken plausibly if India sets its regional house in order first. It can only then think of rushing off to tame the IS.
From the foregoing discussion of Mr. Modi’s year and more in office, it is clear that such an exercise of power cannot be military. Firstly, it has not succeeded for at least thirty years and currently is not succeeding either. Secondly, it is risky. A bunch of terrorists can potentially set of a nuclear conflagration. It would be too late to talk nostalgically of gentlemanly South Asian wars and subcontinental maturity and strategic good sense. Thirdly, the Bihar elections suggest that Mr. Modi is on notice that neither his economic nor his ideological plank is appealing for voters. If he is to have a second innings - and being young enough he can aspire so - he has to change tack.
Giving Mr. Modi the benefit of doubt even if he wanted the situation to turn out better, his support base has had other things on its mind. As seen over the last year and half, he has squandered an opportunity for taking Manmohanomics a step further – assuming that is the right direction for the economy - by allowing his supporting pseudo-cultural formation having the run of the place. Its affect in Kashmir has been in communal tension in Rajouri and more visibly the arson that led to the death of a Kashmiri truck driver over the ‘beef’ issue. Politically, the BJP half of the coalition in Kashmir has yet to unveil its agenda fully.
Clearly, the direction Mr. Modi’s must head is stark. Rein in Hindutva and concentrate on economics. The latter necessarily involves keeping Pakistan alongside. This by corollary means his next visit to the Valley must be for more than doling out money. He has four years on his side to reset course. But then, as someone has said that would be ask for a change in his stripes. Maybe on that count, Mani Shankar Aiyar unfortunately may just be right. 



















Monday, November 16, 2015

Pakistani “idiocy”: A general gets it half right

http://indiatogether.org/a-general-gets-it-half-right-op-ed

General KJ Singh, commanding general of Western Command, brought the curtain down on the half year long celebrations of the fiftieth anniversary of the 1965 War in just the way he began the commemoration, by attending a seminar at a university. In February he spoke at Punjabi University in Patiala and this month again at the Punjab University, Chandigarh.
FOR FULL ARTICLE SEE - http://indiatogether.org/a-general-gets-it-half-right-op-ed
That perhaps explains the general playing to the gallery in his Chandigarh address: “It (Pakistan) does something silly in ’47 with Razakars and which it repeats in ’65 and wants to do it again in Kargil, despite the famous saying that doing the same thing again and again and expecting results is the hallmark of being idiotic. Yet it is a country which we have to face.”
FOR FULL ARTICLE SEE - http://indiatogether.org/a-general-gets-it-half-right-op-ed
As far as the military is concerned the water that has flown past the bridge includes considerable amount of exchange of ordnance across the Line of Control. The general’s own Command’s exercise, Brahmashira, apparently failed to impress General Raheel Sharifacross the border, who growled that whatever the type of war, ‘cold start or hot start’ the price exacted would be ‘unbearable damage’.
In Kashmir, though the army managed to kill the mastermind of the Udhampur terror attack, reportedly 30000 turned up for his funeral. Clearly, Mr. Modi’s Rs. 80000 crores cannot buy back Kashmiris.
Diplomatically, there has been a hold up in possible talks with Pakistan, with a pow-wow between NSAs being called off and consequent suspension of follow-up talks between the military operations heads. The situation is such that there is an active discussion now in strategic circles on limited war and limited nuclear war possibilities, with Americans in the lead as prospective peace brokers in case of the latter.
FOR FULL ARTICLE SEE - http://indiatogether.org/a-general-gets-it-half-right-op-ed
Reaction to action
FOR FULL ARTICLE SEE - http://indiatogether.org/a-general-gets-it-half-right-op-ed
In the 1947 War, Pakistan, taking cue from India’s actions in Junagadh that came to a head between mid-September and late October, jumped the gun for the bigger prize, Kashmir. Since there were no wholly Muslim units in the British Indian army after the 1857 rebellion, it did not have regular forces to force the Maharaja’s hand. It therefore employed demobilised soldiers from World War II to lead the tribal invasion.
Its hand in the 1965 War was forced by India’s moves to normalize its relationship with Kashmir. Assessing that keeping its stake alive required military action, it mistook Shastri’s sense of resolve. The least expensive option was adopted, irregular warfare with induction of infiltrators. Interesting, the Pakistan army web-pages make no mention of this episode in its history.
The first moves of the 1971 War were made by India when it clipped off Pakistan’s access to East Pakistan by banning over-flights after the eminently questionable hijacking episode of an Indian Airlines plane, Ganga, to Lahore. A vulnerable Pakistan overreacted through a crackdown in East Pakistan, which was capitalized on with unseemly alacrity by India.
Retrospect suggests that the Indian aim was to cut Pakistan and it’s military to size in order to force a decision on Kashmir on it. If the manner of observance of the fiftieth anniversary of the 1965 War is a guide, six years hence military history will undoubtedly edit out India’s culpability in arming the militants and its implications for the Pakistani genocide out of the frame.
The Kargil War was essentially an extension of the ongoing fight along the Line of Control. An energetic General Musharraf, who had signed his military record with his inability to take back Bana peak in Siachen, went about doing a ‘reverse Siachen’ to India. One advantage at some cost to Pakistan was to heighten and lengthen the fighting in Kashmir by the induction of ‘fidayeen’.
Between these military trysts, both states were equally proactive. After the 1971 War, India switched from its military doctrine of defensive defence to a counter offensive doctrine, predicated on a replay of East Pakistan on mainland Pakistan. In the eighties, its profligate military spending enabled this capability and by the nineties it had three strike corps, one more than Pakistan, giving it an ability to prevail. No wonder Pakistan attempted to actively tie down India’s army in Kashmir.
In the 2000s, India moved to an explicitly offensive doctrine, Cold Start, which in the 2010s is relatively well practiced. As a measure of its capability, it is set to hold the largest exercise of the decade – currently unnamed - this month. This despite the knowledge that Pakistan’s foreign secretary put across unmistakably in September, to the effect that Pakistan is pledged to ‘go nuclear’ in response.
This brief strategic history reveals that wars and militarisation have failed to impress Pakistan. Therefore, for India to persist down the military path, it would do better to avoid the term ‘idiotic’. This would also mean that the general is only half right in restricting the description to Pakistan.
If, as the general says, ‘it (Pakistan) is a country which is going to remain a problem for us’, we have had a hand in it. Our current hard nosed military stance, plausibly deniable intelligence operations and diplomatic chill are what ensure that Pakistan will remain a problem for us. Indeed, acknowledging that we have done no better may be the first step to recovering strategic sanity in the nuclear age.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Whither Modi, and, at one remove, India?

Vol. 16 No. 21 Issue Serial # 379 facebook.com/milligazette www.milligazette.com 
1-15 November 2015 

The Akhlaq murder by a lynch mob, no doubt put to its dastardly deed by political minders of the eminently political and quintessentially pseudo cultural formation, signifies India poised at a cross road. Many are looking towards its prime minister for direction. Awaiting the Bihar poll verdict, by way of which he intends consolidating his position, Mr. Modi is studiously maintaining his silence.
Knowing that the development plank can only take the BJP so far and no further in light of Nitesh Yadav’s strong credentials in that department, the mother lode of the BJP, the Hindutvavadis, has sought to make the elections plebiscitary, a ‘with us or against us’ one depending on whether you eat beef or otherwise.
Even as the Bihar electorate contemplates this, some Modi supporters are in a quandary. Those who support his Hindutva agenda are happy to continue to profit from his letting them a loose rope. Those who support both his Hindutva agenda and the development agenda now worry that the former may overshadow the latter, leaving them only partially satisfied. Even so, they would be happy if Modi is able to foster Hindutva; with any lack in development being easily blamed on the opposition. Those who support his development plank alone are aghast that the Hindutva plank has potential to truncate development. They want Mr. Modi to rein in the Hindutvavadis so that these do not prove an embarrassment to India on the world stage and keep investment away.
Of the three categories of supporters – Hinduvavadis, development minded and with both on the mind –two categories of supporters priorities Hindutva over development. This leaves only Modi supporters mindful of his development plank alone as revolted. Nevertheless, even they would likely ‘wait and see’, giving their leader the benefit of the doubt hoping that post Bihar elections, Mr. Modi will  show the  Hindutvavadis the door and concentrate on ‘acche din’.
This analysis suggests therefore that nothing has changed. Modi supporters on the basis of development are none too numerous as to count. Mr. Modi, knowing his electoral mathematics, therefore, is unlikely to pull the rug from under his own feet by reining in the Hindutva brigade. Consequently, it can be hazarded that the future can only be ‘more of the same’ in terms of Hindutva excesses, but with an admixture of development once (and if) Bihar is in Mr. Modi’s kitty.
The point for readers of this journal is that things cannot be expected to get any better. The regime is only in its second year. It cannot be expected to change tack so soon. The opposition it is receiving from the usual suspects – the liberals – will unlikely deflect it. In both cases – whether Mr. Modi and his electoral schemer Amit Shah – pull it off in Bihar or otherwise, the outcome will be the same.
In case the Bihar elections sets the stage for Mr. Modi’s capture by end next year of the upper house, then ‘acche din’ will be closer at hand. This will embolden the Hindutva lobby, legitimizing their forays.  The two sets of supporters will be ascendant; only the solely development minded will be slightly put out.
In the second case – in which Amit Shah is shown up like in the Delhi verdict – there will be little difference. In fact, since the tide will be rolling back on the so called ‘Modi wave’, the Hindutvavadis would be energized to work their potion as much as they can while they can. Mr. Modi, continuing adrift on development, would be even less inclined to stall them.
In summation, the direction of India at the cross road is easy to discern. It will continue on – or more accurately down - the Hindutva track. This is not only in Mr. Modi’s interest, but also counter-intuitively that of his opposition. They would hope that at the next hustings, Mr. Modi would trip up over the false promise of development; be exposed by Hindutva excesses; and have his development minded flock look towards them. The opposition, after all, will not want to be seen as afoul of the greater glory of Hindu culture.
If this reading of Hindutva catching momentum hereon is accurate, strategizing for such a future is necessary. The past decade and half has demonstrated that this is nothing new. The UPA interregnum, though ten years long, did not change anything. They too subscribed to soft Hindutva and allowed institutions to be subverted from within. With the incumbents pressing ahead with their Hindutva agenda unapologetically and non-hypocritically, arriving at a sound strategy has acquired urgency. Only a barebones attempt is made here.
Getting the aim right at the outset is a critical first step. Firstly, it cannot be at the cost of any more Muzaffarpurs and Akhlaqs. The sufferers will be Muslims and perpetrators will remain scot free. Secondly, we cannot afford to furnish Hindutvavadis with an excuse for confrontation, including youthful exuberance and, worse, misconceived defence of the faith by some through violence. Thirdly, it cannot be at the cost of our right to self-defence and self-respect either. Finally, it cannot be at the cost of missing the development bus this time round too. If such a bus does manage to run, Muslims must be on it. Neither must we end up as scapegoats in case it does not run.
There appear to be two options. There is the longstanding route of throwing in our lot with secular mainstream parties and lately there is the ‘Owaisi option’, of bandwagoning with a confessional party. Owaisi misses no opportunity to discuss the cons of the former and highlighting the pros of the Owaisi option. However, the underside of the Owaisi option is in political ghettoization and the ballast Hindutva acquires. The danger is also in the Owaisi option ending in a negotiated sell-out to the BJP, once it is in position to do so with a command over the Muslim vote. To weigh-in on this, the Owaisi option is currently only hype, intended by BJP media backers to polarize voters behind the BJP; leaving us with only the first option in play.
The end state must be in showing the BJP the door end decade in a manner that a makeover normalizes it as a typical conservative party. This will signal the exhaustion of Hindus with their being used as electoral cannon fodder, a vote bank; quite like the lesson Muslims have learned in the last elections. This can be brought about by Muslims staying out of the way and keeping as low as possible while Hindutva excess leads to an internal Hindu debate over their own cultural antecedents and what these portend. It is easy to see that this will not be easy since at least a portion of these excesses will be directed our way, as the Akhlaq murder testifies.
As for the strategy framing part itself, it would require awaiting the Bihar verdict and what it spells for the balance of Mr. Modi’s term. If it indicates that Mr. Modi is an undisputed champion, then a strategy of survival will have to be in place, and if Mr. Modi is shown up finally, then it has to be one of lending ballast to the mainstream opposition in its bounce back. Muslim cannot do this alone. It is not their fight. It is about how Hindus want to see India, as Mr. Modi and his legions would like them to or in the light of pluralism two millennia old.  
      


Friday, October 23, 2015

The military musical chairs

http://indiatogether.org/military-musical-chairs-op-ed
With the Bihar elections hogging all the attention in the news, an interesting development noted by military watchers is liable to be missed. A former military secretary informs that an unprecedented number of army appointments are currently vacant, including two very sensitive posts - Director General Military Operations, and Military Secretary.
What does this imply?
A positive answer to this could be that the government may be looking to create the appointment of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) or permanent Chairman of the Chiefs’ of Staff Committee (COSC), as the case may be. This could entail a wider reshuffle and this may be holding up the filling in of vacancies.
FOR FULL ARTICLE SEE - http://indiatogether.org/military-musical-chairs-op-ed
In addition to the joint commands, Andaman and Nicobar Command and the Strategic Forces Command, and the HQs Integrated Defence Staff, there are a host of joint commands in the offing that would require single-point oversight: special operations command, cyber and space commands etc.
This government is reportedly mulling the creation of a CDS. Implementing this may require elevating one of the chiefs or deeper selection. If from the army, then this opens up the possibility of a wider shake up. The possibility of this puts a positive spin on the deliberateness seemingly accompanying the current holdup.
However, if this was the plausible reason there would likely have been a corroborating media report or leak to this effect. The converse is also possible that such news would have attracted the usual fight back by political parties not interested in the military acquiring such salience, and by the bureaucracy that has been dead set against such a move. This might explain why the move, if impending, is under wraps.
This column has consistently pointed to the risk of politicization of the military under an ideological regime. It is not in the form as usually assumed and well studied, of a politicized military out to seize power spurred by its institutional interests. Instead, it is the reverse, a neutralization of the military as a politically significant actor so that the ideological agenda of the regime is furthered without checks and balances.
The pre-WWII German government, for example, neutered the General Staff of the military as part of their totalitarian scheme. The tactics included implicating one leading general for marrying a prostitute and another for homosexuality.
FOR FULL ARTICLE SEE -http://indiatogether.org/military-musical-chairs-op-ed
It is well recognized that the appointment of the Chief is a political one, not only procedurally so with the Appointments Committee clearing it, but also substantively. While the senior most in line between the vice chiefs and the army commanders is usually made the Chief designate, allegations of the proverbial ‘line of succession’ being manipulated have often attended such successions, particularly in the more recent past.
The most infamous one was brought to fore by General V K Singh’s insinuations that  General J J Singh, the first Chief of Sikh faith, worked the succession line up to favour the chances of V K Singh’s successor, Bikram Singh, another Sikh, to take over. That VK Singh employed considerable energy and invested his reputation to undo this was evident from his ‘date of birth’ controversy.
V K Singh however hit himself in the foot when it emerged that his attempt at deflecting Bikram Singh from his destiny, may have been to ensure that Bikram Singh’s successor was not the current Chief Gen Dalbir Singh, but another general, Lt Gen Ashok Singh, who is the father-in-law of his daughter! Ashok Singh had organized the troop movementin the vicinity of Delhi when V K Singh’s court hearing had come up in January 2012.
What this look-back suggests is that higher echelon appointments have a political angle. However, since the professionalism of the various candidates is seldom in doubt, this has not been very controversial thus far. So why should it be different this time round?
Firstly, this government, unlike previous governments, has not stopped after reshuffling gubernatorial appointments in its first foray into an ideological takeover of institutions. It has moved into education and culture. This suggests the military cannot expect to remain unscathed; some anticipatory concern is warranted.
Secondly, the Director General Military Operations (DGMO) and Military Secretary (MS) posts are critical for keeping a check on and control of the military. The criticality of the DGMO post is obvious from V K Singh’s moving of military formations in the vicinity of New Delhi, without the then DGMO being in the loop.
FOR FULL ARTICLE SEE -http://indiatogether.org/military-musical-chairs-op-ed
The MS post is even more critical from an ideological regime’s point of view. The MS is in charge of promotions and postings of the officer corps. The apprehension is that the ongoing saffronisation of India will engulf the military leadership eventually. Having a known entity controlling this process, in the form of a hand-picked MS perhaps sharing its world view, would be better from such a government’s perspective.
Hopefully, the cautionary word here will be proven false, and officers with impeccable spoken reputations for professionalism and integrity are appointed to the coveted posts. The continuing spate of divisiveness in the country’s politics, however, is bad enough that such apprehensions must be plausibly raised.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Getting practical over an important report

http://epaper.kashmirtimes.in/archives.aspx?date1=9/15/2015&page=6
http://www.kashmirtimes.in/newsdet.aspx?q=44959
Kashmir Times Op-Ed
15 September 2015

Five hundred and thirty nine pages of Structures of Violence: The Indian State in Jammu and Kashmir will unlikely be read in their entirety. At a price of less than a rupee a page, they will hopefully find a readership, not merely within J&K, but in the rest of India. However, that is unlikely to be anytime soon.
That they are read fully or in one sitting was in any case not the aim of The International Peoples' Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-Administered Kashmir and The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, constituents of Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society that have put out the report. Their aim was a recording of what amount to war crimes in J&K and exposure of the state culpability in the individual offences and acts of commission and omission covered by command responsibility (or lack of exercise thereof).
At the outset it can be said that the stated aims of the team of volunteers that have put it together are unlikely to be met. They place the record for action by the ‘international community’. The state system is far from being a ‘community’. If it is the West the authors want to attract, the appetite for intervention there, thankfully, has dried up. If they mean states in general, they will be disappointed. Leftist and liberal circles can be expected to be enthused by the report. Their heft however is limited to the converted. The UN and its agencies figure on their list to lean on the Indian government. The government would point to its improved record over the past decade to say that it is doing what it can under the circumstance of proxy war. It will point to the court martial sentence being promulgated in the Machhil killings case as example. India being the geo-economic cynosure is unlikely to be put upon for its record of a decade and half back. There is far too much of ‘immediate and urgent’ nature on the plate of the ‘international community’ for that.  
The naming and shaming of perpetrators is to put on notice foreign governments and the UN not to give visas and migrant status and employment respectively to alleged perpetrators. This may work in individual cases such as in the case of the BSF officer who was denied a visa by the Canadian embassy. A Nepali military officer with the UN on holiday in UK was in 2013 picked up by authorities there on human rights related charges. Thus, at best, the individuals named will be inconvenienced slightly. The report has  no illusions that legal action will be taken against them in any case, since it lays bare in graphic detail the impunity they have had under the ‘structures of violence’ that unfortunately includes the judicial system. 
Clearly, the report must not be lost as its predecessor of 2012, Alleged Perpetrators, that had examined over two hundred cases of human rights violations and, ‘for the first time’, the role of 500 alleged perpetrators. Its content is far too important to be lost in cyber space or exchanged within the same and restricted solidarist circles. This time it must be made to serve a purpose. Looking beyond borders for that is delusive. It must not also end up proving counter-productive within the borders. So the question is: if it is to be useful, how should it be played?
In this the report itself is not particularly helpful. It covers, in its words, ‘How did/does the Indian State perpetrate this violence? What precisely is the structure, physical and institutional, through which weapons, ammunition, soldiers, officers, camps and battalions inflict violence on the people of Jammu and Kashmir?’ The answer to this is well known. Explicit lay out of the structures is useful at best for peace studies students and shall be for future historians.
The practice of a counter insurgency grid is not going to change in India. It plays to India’s strength of manpower. Insertion of the security forces in an omnipresent grid – while coercive, invasive and intrusive – is doctrinally necessary to cripple the freedom of movement of the opponent and increase chances of engagement in which attrition can bring down their number. Assuming that this advantage of numbers was not there with India, counter insurgency would be more kinetic means reliant, with increased pain to the subject people and society, witness counter insurgency anywhere else in the world. How the operations proceed is essentially dependent on the nature and strength of the opposition. There are periods and areas in which this is significant. Expectedly, this will be met with force with resultant pressures on the population that then should be ascribed to the foreign minders of militants/terrorists.
In Kashmir, there is no denying that the levels of opposition were orchestrated by Pakistan. Therefore, the onus is not so much in India, as elsewhere. There is no denying that whereas the structures of violence were Indian and the perpetrators Indian, the context was of proxy war. When Pakistan drew down proxy war in the late Musharraf period, India too appreciably stood down the militarized template. The report needs balancing by the context of the violence. It cannot be argued that Indian violence led to the opposition – setting up a cycle. Indeed, if India had not applied force or applied it ineffectually, it can equally plausibly be argued that Pakistan would have upped the ante of violence through proxies. The report then would be writing up Pakistani directed violations instead.
In fact, there needs to be a similar report done on the levels of terror that terrorists of foreign origin and Kashmiri militants perpetrated. The support that insurgents enjoy is seldom on ideological basis alone. It is instead as much coerced as voluntary. In effect, what happened in Kashmir can be seen against a narrative framework in which the two belligerents – India and Pakistan – were wrestling over who would dominate the society. It can be hazarded from the manner Islamists conduct themselves elsewhere that had the proxy fighters gained the upper hand, Kashmiris would be much more imposed upon than. In effect, Indian security forces – though they have much to answer for as the report brings out – also have provided a service of keeping Islamism out from Kashmir. It is naïve to believe that Kashmiri nationalism or Kashmiriyat would have survived their arrival.
Since we are on a counter factual trip, it can also be recorded that in such a case the 170 million Muslim Indians in rest of India would have faced the brunt of an implacable Hindutva, feeding on ‘yet another’ Muslim ‘secession’. Vajpayee having Dilip Kumar make this point to Nawaz Sharif in a telephone conversation in Kargil War is an example of the manner Kashmir and India’s minority are intertwined. The second dimension of successful secession or short of it is in the demonstration effect on other ethnicities in India making similar demands. This is a non-trivial prospect. India has potential to be reduced to an African or Balkans scenario in short order. Therefore, there is a case for it to use force. As to whether that force can be measured and respectful of the laws of war is to be seen. The report merely brings out that it was not. It can be argued that India could have done better, but not by much.
This is important to bring out to address the second, perhaps more important, issue the report addresses: ‘Where is the control? The driving motivation of this exercise is, as has always been: Responsibility. Who do we hold responsible for the individual and collected acts of violence?’ The report, though it concentrates on the actors on the ground, addresses this by making clear that the impunity of perpetrators and responsibility for the structures was that of the government. For instance, Advani’s visit to Kashmir in wake of the Panchaltan killings was intended to push under the carpet the massacre at Chhittisingpora, itself designed as a ‘black operation’ to implicate Pakistan in influencing Clinton’s mind during his South Asia visit.  
The report’s ground level focus leaves out the higher echelons that alternatively blessed, connived, allowed and ‘looked the other way’. This cannot be restricted to the military or paramilitary hierarchy, but must include the bureaucrats and the political levels. No bureaucrat resigned, though at least one former bureaucrat presents himself in seminar rooms as the lead whistle blower in the Kunan Poshpora case, thereby unwittingly increasing its long standing propaganda value for one side of the narrative. The governors in the period, with military and intelligence backgrounds, cannot be expected to have done anything differently.  Politicians through the nineties were inattentive, collusive and in the case of Advani’s stewardship in the NDA period active participants. Society in India was in the throes of an LPG induced economic frenzy and a political lurch to the right. Under this circumstance, imagining that alternative measures in Kashmir were at all possible is illusory.
A critique of the legalistic and human rights up front approach that informs the report cannot but bring in politics and the context. Doing so is not to denigrate the report or effort. It is to ensure that the report goes further than it would otherwise go. How to make it palatable to those who need to see it? Relying on New Delhi would be to be innocent of politics. The ruling party was there at the helm earlier. Since nothing in its agenda suggests that it is out to ‘resolve’ Kashmir any time soon, it would not disown an instrument that it might have to resort to itself. The judicial system, that moves glacially, at the best of times, is not about to change: witness the cases related to Gujarat pogrom. The liberals are already in the midst of a fight for their lives: against rampant Hindutva.
The report has already made an important contribution in allowing space to the victims, their families and witnesses to voice their story. It ensures that the ‘lived’ experience of Kashmiris is captured, and history, currently being rewritten in the rest of India, cannot erase the Kashmiri narrative of pain endured inflicted by a state that was supposed to be protecting it. The report will serve as the take off point for initiatives, possibly a decade away, by when India would have seen the back of Hindutva. That’s when perhaps it will make the desired difference. For the moment the middle classes looked the other way when all this was happening in Kashmir. They are currently politically more consequential and looking at an economic promise.
Obviously, leaving it to the future is not enough. A report such as this must be made to go further and in the moment. One area is in an appeal to the military to take its content seriously. Since the paramilitary are doctrinally challenged, for no fault of their own, but that they come under the home ministry and are run by the IPS cadre not particularly known for intellectual integrity, this report would not find any takers there. That leaves the military. Even in this, the report cannot be ambitious.
A military that prides itself on professionalism should be hassled that it has not followed through on cases where its own army commander said it would, for instance the Lolab killings of 2004. It should be worried that a person named in the report for alleged sexual violations is currently in the NCC that has Girls battalions. It cannot overlook the fact that an officer named in connection with a massacre that  left a score dead gains an award  in the same year, and goes on to  win a second a few years on, the latter with privilege of free train travel lifelong. Such officers, even if not shown the door, should have been ‘fixed’ in military parlance. If a quick google search can bring forth such information, surely the military’s personnel branch and care for spoken reputation must be able to forewarn it better.
It is clear from the report that there was a command environment that accepted - nay encouraged – transgression with the excuse of aggressive junior leaders with initiative. What appears neglected was appropriate oversight of such ‘aggressive’ officers. It is also clear that the military has under the changed indices of violence changed its ways. What the military needs ask itself is should the situation recur or be witnessed elsewhere, say in Nagaland, would it resort to similar means, such as for instance the discredited strategy of using turned militants. Besides such doctrinal questions, it also needs to rethink its input to the political leadership. Instead of soto voce suggesting a ‘political solution’, as chiefs ‘Paddy’ Padmanabhan onwards rightly have, when will it thump the table or recommend limited war instead of being parasitical for an indeterminate duration on an Indian ethno-social group? Can it be inferred from the report that it was nursing its institutional interest using Kashmir as opportunity, quite like the Pakistan army? Does this account for its mantra 'AFSPA'? A professional military should be engaging with such questions post conflict.
The report does need airing outside Kashmir and among the usual (liberal) suspects. It is unlikely it will get the forum in ‘mainland’ India, until the electorate is disenchanted with the LPG and its current champion Mr. Modi. It is then India will revert to rethinking what it wishes to be and how from its current vision of being the next superpower.